3. Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:1-53; I Kings 1:1-53; I Kings 2:13-25)Related Media
What do you like to do in the spring time?
Sailing, hiking or planting flowers? Maybe you like to go camping after the snow is gone and leaves are budding on the trees. Spring is a beautiful time of the year but for David and our next woman, Bathsheba, the words “spring time” mean something quite different.
David and Bathsheba. Their names are forever linked. Their story is one of the most famous of all the bible. Movies, books, plays have been written and produced to tell their tale.
“Never have the words “wrong place, wrong time” fit a situation so snugly. Toss in “wrong person, wrong reason,” and you’ve summed up the David-and-Bathsheba fiasco in a nutshell. It’s a story replete with “seduction, intrigue, and murder,” starring the most unlikely of players: David, king of the Good Guys. The setting was Jerusalem; the season was spring…”1
Bathsheba has been for me the most challenging ‘woman of influence’ to study and to get to know. One of the reasons is that we don’t know from the text her inner thoughts, or her feelings, and so it’s “difficult to accurately judge the reactions and emotions of Bathsheba.”2 Yet, there is no doubt that she had a significant part in the life of David. She is best known as the woman who was seen bathing in the evening, then brought to the palace and slept with the King. This seemingly “one-night affair” results in a pregnancy that turns David’s world upside down. But we know more information about Bathsheba. She births a total of 5 sons to David; one is King Solomon. She becomes a favored wife at court and ultimately the Queen Mother. It would be true to say she remains a loyal wife to David all his life; and helps to save the Kingdom for her son Solomon. A woman of influence? Oh, I would say yes. Let’s look at her story.
II. Bathsheba’s Bath (2 Samuel 11:1-12:25)
A. Sin (v. 1-5)
2 Samuel 11:1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.
This is one of the saddest verses in all the bible to me, in fact, I cringe when I hear these words: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war…..” Our story in placed right in the middle of war. The previous chapter tells us that David and his army have been fighting the Arameans to the north and the Ammonites to the east. Then the winters came. Since David did not keep a standing army, his men went home, many to plant their crops. Then after spring harvesting, they were summoned back to war. But this spring, when the troops went out, David stayed home. In the text, there is implication that he should not be in Jerusalem, but with the men. At this time David is middle aged, probably around 50 years old. We don’t know why he stayed home, maybe he was tired of sleeping on the ground, eating camp food. He had been a warrior since he was a teenager, maybe he felt his general Joab and his men were completely competent and could win without his presence. But one evening…
2 Samuel 11:2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful
We need to think of the topography of the city. Jerusalem at this time is a city on a hill slope. It would be shaped like a slice of pizza, wide at the top, narrowing as you go down the hill. David’s palace is at the top of the hill and everyone else’s home is downhill from his view point. David, out on his roof, his patio, could see down on the rest of the city. David looking down, saw Bathsheba bathing and she was beautiful. He asked who is that? The answer should have been enough to stop his thoughts, to wave red flags and to turn his gaze away. Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam. This is unusual for the writer to include a woman’s father’s name if she’s married, except that her father may have been one of David’s officers (II Samuel 23:34). She is also the wife of Uriah, and that should have put the brakes on for Uriah was part of David’s elite bodyguards (II Samuel 23:39). He was like a green beret, a Navy Seal, a special ops guy. Uriah was one of the 30, selected out of hundreds, that were David’s mighty men. But Uriah was at war, David was at home and Bathsheba was beautiful.
2 Samuel 11:4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home.
The question that is often asked is “What part did Bathsheba play in this affair?” Scriptures are silent. They do not tell us the answer to that question. We know that David was the King, the absolute authority. We know that he sent “messengers” plural, not just one person, to get her : “the word literally is to take her” in the Hebrew (laqah meaning to “to fetch” or “ summon”.3 We know that the power was all in his hands. David could have anyone he wanted. Commentators try to read between the lines to see if she too is guilty. I repeat the Scriptures are silent when we ask that question.
“When we read of this incident, we do so through Western eyes. We live in a day when a woman has the legal right to say “No” at any point in a romantic relationship. If the man refuses to stop, that is regarded as a violation of her rights; it is regarded as rape. It didn't work that way for women in the ancient Near East. Lot could offer his virgin daughters to the wicked men of Sodom, to protect strangers who were his guests, and there was not one word of protest from his daughters when he did so (Genesis 19:7-8). These virgins were expected to obey their father, who was in authority over them. Michal was first given to David as his wife, and then Saul took her back and gave her to another man. And then David took her back (1 Samuel 25:44; 2 Samuel 3:13-16). Apparently, Michal had no say in this whole sequence of events. (Regarding Bathsheba:) she is not bathing herself at high noon; she is bathing in the evening. This is when the law prescribed (for ceremonial cleansing), and it is when the sun is setting. In other words, it is nearly dark when Bathsheba sets out to wash herself. David has to work to see what he does.”4
I think the better question to ask the text is Why did David go after her? If it was only sex, he had several wives in his palace who would have met that desire. But no, he wanted Bathsheba, even after learning she was another man’s wife.
I remember hearing on TV an interview with a famous, powerful man who had been exposed for having several affairs and he was asked “Why did you do that, risk your marriage, your reputation, your career to have an affair with an intern?” He answered, “I did it, because I could, and no one could stop me.” David sinned with Bathsheba because he could, and no one could stop him. It wasn’t just about sex; it was about control and power. How many times do we sin just because we can and we think we can get away with it? Perhaps that is what David thought, until he heard three small words, the only words Bathsheba speaks in this passage: “I’m pregnant.”
For many of us, when we experienced those words, we were filled with joy and excitement. However for others, pregnancy means anything but good news. And that’s where Bathsheba and David found themselves.
B. Cover-Up And Murder (v. 6-25)
David sets in motion a plan to cover-up this affair.
2 Samuel 11 :6 So David sent this word to Joab: “Send me Uriah the Hittite.” And Joab sent him to David.
He works really hard to pass the child off as Uriah’s. He questions Uriah with “what’s going on in the battle?” Then David sends him home to hopefully sleep with Bathsheba. But no, Uriah whose name means “Yahweh is my light” 5is an honorable man; he stays at the palace sleeping near the servants and does not go to his house. His reason?
2 Samuel 11:11 Uriah said to David, “The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my commander Joab and my lord’s men are camped in the open country. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and make love to my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!”
He is not willingly going home to Bathsheba, so David’s next plan is to get him drunk. He will lose his inhibitions and surely he’ll want to go home and sleep with Bathsheba. But even drunk, Uriah stays at court. David is not yet out of ideas and the next is deadly. David writes a letter to Joab, the general, to order Uriah to the front lines to ensure his death. Ironically, David ordered Uriah to carry the letter himself to Joab. This plan works and Uriah is killed.
Don’t you wonder what Bathsheba knew? Again, Scriptures are silent.
Adele Berlin writes:
“Bathsheba seems to know nothing of David’s plan, and indeed, it unfolds outside her purview. Bathsheba is “on stage” in this story very infrequently and is silent except for the announcement of her pregnancy, which she does not deliver in person. No hint is given of her inner life or her complicity with or resistance to David’s actions.”6
We do know that when she heard her husband had died in battle, “she mourned for him” (v. 26) What were her true feelings? Was she heartbroken or relieved? Was her grief genuine or fake? Like most of her story, we don’t know what she felt but only know what she did, or what was done to her. She went through the prescribed grieving rituals for Uriah. Then, after the customary 7 days of mourning, David brought her to the palace (literally “sent and collected her), married her and she bore him a son. However,
2 Samuel 11: 27b the thing David had done displeased the Lord
“upset the Lord” (NET); “was evil in the sight of the Lord” (NASB)
As I studied this passage, this sentence is one of the strongest arguments for Bathsheba’s innocence. This sentence places the blame, the sin, the affair, solely on David; not David and Bathsheba. It does not say “Bathsheba displeased the Lord” but David alone. David alone took advantage and sinned against the Lord and he sinned against Bathsheba. We’re going to see that this is not the end of the story of Bathsheba. However one of the truths of we learn from her life is:
Truth: Sins against us are not the end of the story in the plans of God.
Many of us have been sinned against. In fact, all of us have been sinned against. When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, he gave a model of prayer that we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” Jesus knew we would sin and be sinned against, needing to receive and give forgiveness.
Luke 11:2-4 Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us
We sin and are sinned against. Let me just name a few examples of being sinned against: childhood or spousal abuse, desertions, rejections, abandonments, financial injustices, false accusations, all kinds of inequities, when life seems so unfair, so not what we expected.
Truth: Even when we are sinned against, our lives can be brought into the purposes of God for His good.
There are times, dark times, when we don’t see God, we don’t feel His purposes in our pain, but be assured; He is always working, always present, always active in ways we don’t understand or sense. Bathsheba must have felt sinned against. She was taken from her home by the king’s men to the palace. David had sex with her and sent her back home. She found herself pregnant by David, not her husband. An intentional crime against her husband made her a war widow. How unfair!
Do you know the old saying “It takes two to tango?” Sometimes with sin, it’s only One. Only one person sins and yet, the other also reaps the consequences.
I remember several years ago I was sitting in a large auditorium listening to a message on this topic: when we are sinned against. Next to me was a very good friend and neighbor who I had known for years. Her husband had left her and was in the process of divorcing her and remarrying. When the speaker said something like “Sometimes there is only one at fault, only one to blame for what happens in relationships” my friend starting crying, and I did too. She was like Bathsheba, not perfect, but the one who was sinned against.
The Good News here is that sins against us are not the end of the story. God is going to confront David about his sin. Yes, there are difficult, painful consequences to his sin and Bathsheba will suffer too, but God is working out His purposes, His plans for good. We will see that as we read on.
III. Marriage And Children ( 2 Samuel 12:1-25)
A. Confrontation And Consequences
Life in the palace seems calm for a season. David and Bathsheba are married. Their son is born and all is peaceful until Nathan the prophet shows up with a message from God. He tells David a parable that appeals to his heart as a shepherd and king.
2 Samuel 12:4 This rich man had lots of lambs but he stole a precious little lamb from a poor man and cooked it for his house guest.
David was righteously upset with the rich man until Nathan said to him You are the man, although you’re not going to die, your baby will (12:7) This breaks David’s heart and he confesses
2 Samuel 12:13 I have sinned against the Lord
The baby does get sick and David pleads, prays, fasts and for 7 days he was pleading with God to save the life of his son. I imagine Bathsheba was probably holding that baby in her arms and praying too, staying up all night, rocking and loving this little one. Have you been there with a sick child? Or a precious animal? Do you know how she must have felt?
One commentator said …This child “though short lived and unnamed, would not be unloved” 7 David and Bathsheba loved this baby.
Sometime, perhaps during the 7 days or in this season David would pen the words to Psalm 51 (A Psalm of David when the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba) Every week at our church we pray a version of this Psalm.
Psalm 51:1,2 Have mercy on me O God according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
God forgave the sin, but there were painful consequences to bear. The baby died. We see David’s great grief, but of Bathsheba we hear nothing. What pain, what sorrow, what heartache she must have felt too. It would seem that this baby’s death drew them closer together
2 Samuel 12:24, 25 Then David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and made love to her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; 25 and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah.
Solomon’s name comes from the root of the Hebrew word shalom meaning peace. Jedidiah means beloved of Yahweh. The phrase “Now the Lord loved the child” is the Hebrew way of saying the Lord chose him.8 Perhaps from birth, Bathsheba knew that Solomon was a special child, destined for greatness, designed to be David’s heir.
B. Bathsheba Request To David (I Kings 1:1-53)
Some 20 years go by before we see Bathsheba again. When Nathan, prophet, confronted David about his sin, he predicted that because David had killed Uriah with the sword and taken his wife, “the sword will never depart from your house” (2 Samuel 12:10). That’s what we see happen in these 20 years; troubles upon troubles for David’s family. His oldest son, Amnon raped his own half-sister Tamar. In revenge, Tamar’s brother and David’s son Absalom killed Amnon and fled into exile. Absalom returns only to usurp his father David’s throne and take his wives. As the battle progresses, he is killed by David’s general, Joab. His large family, his many wives, the consequences of his own actions result in great dysfunction and agony as he ages. When we meet Bathsheba again David is old, near death, but still alert and has not yet officially designated a successor to the throne. Enter Adonijah.
1. Adonijah’s Coup (v. 5-10)
Adonijah is David’s fourth son, probably the eldest one living at this time, most likely around 35yrs old. He made elaborate preparations to seize the throne. He lined up horses, chariots, runners, and planned a huge party. He invited all his brothers except Solomon; all the royal officials except the special guard; all the army including Joab; all the priests except for Zadok and the prophet Nathan. He is ready to usurp David’s throne, this is a coup.
2. Bathsheba And Nathan’s Intervention (v. 11-27)
Somehow Nathan finds out and goes to court to tell Bathsheba. He advises her to respectfully ask David about his successor decision. Then he will come in and confirm the news about Adonijah. He will imply that basically one of two things is happening. He questions David: did you change your mind about Solomon succeeding to your throne and pick Adonijah? If not, David you need to know that your son Adonijah is usurping the throne, making himself King. Hearing that title “King” got David’s attention and he acted quickly. Then inserted into the passage is a tender moment between man and wife.
3. Bathsheba’s Son Is King (v. 28-53)
2 Samuel 12: 28-31 Then King David said, “Call in Bathsheba.” So she came into the king’s presence and stood before him. The king then took an oath: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 30 I will surely carry out this very day what I swore to you by the Lord, the God of Israel: Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne in my place.” Then Bathsheba bowed down with her face to the ground, prostrating herself before the king, and said, “May my lord King David live forever!”
After that things happen very quickly. Solomon, who is probably about 20 years old, is mounted on David’s own mule, which would be a public statement to all that David wanted him to inherit the throne. He is anointed by the priest Zadok and Nathan. The trumpet is blown stating “long live King Solomon” and he is placed on David’s throne. The coup is quelled and the conspirators flee for their lives. Adonijah “in fear of King Solomon” (v. 50) runs to the sanctuary courtyard and took hold of the horns of the altar. To understand what this meant, we need to go back to Exodus.
Exodus 21:12-14 Anyone who strikes a person with a fatal blow is to be put to death. 13 However, if it is not done intentionally, but God lets it happen, they are to flee to a place I will designate. 14 But if anyone schemes and kills someone deliberately, that person is to be taken from my altar and put to death.
Grasping the horns of the altar provided asylum for an accused person while his case was under review. A person could be completely safe there, but only for a time.9
Solomon shows his brother mercy, but it’s conditional. Adonijah must show himself “worthy,” “honorable,” “trustworthy”. We’re going to see how that plays out. But our focus here is on Bathsheba.
For over 20 years Bathsheba has been at court as David’s wife and the mother of his sons. This passage shows that over these years she has developed courage, confidence and a voice, she speaks! Berlin writes:
If Bathsheba is portrayed as passive in her early relationship with David, she becomes strongly active toward the end of David’s life in her successful attempt to ensure that her son Solomon will inherit the throne.10
As a wife of the King, she is respectful not only of him as her husband, but his position as King, “she bowed low and knelt before the king” (v. 16). Yet she is very open with David and reminded him of previous conversations they have had. “You yourself told me Solomon your son shall be king” (v. 17) She knew when he was born God had named him as his chosen one “Jedidiah” beloved of Yahweh. David had probably shared with her his desire to build a temple for Yahweh but God had stopped him. ( I Chron 22:6-10) Solomon, the man of peace, her son, would be the King who build the Temple.
I Chronicles 23:1 When David was old and full of years, he made his son Solomon king over Israel.
And God used Bathsheba to help that happen.
Think of the contrast between Michel and Bathsheba. Michel when she married David, she loved him and protected him, but as the years passed, she allowed the difficult circumstances of her life to harden her heart toward David. Whereas ,Bathsheba was another man’s wife when David took her and sinned against her, but as the years progressed Bathsheba responded in a way that showed she grew to love and respect David. Consequently, she had influence. He listened to what she said. The words she said took courage and conviction, knowing the consequences were life threatening.
Truth: God’s purposes may require us to speak up in difficult circumstances.
In Bathsheba’s world, her step son was about to forcibly take over the Kingdom. If that occurred, and David died, she and her son would likely be murdered. For her, this was a life and death moment. She had to speak up. She had to champion God’s will for the Kingdom.
Can you think of a time, a hard time, when you needed to say something that might be risky or costly to you? But you had to say something because it was the right thing to do?
The Scriptures are full of stories like Bathsheba speaking up to the King. Esther risked her life to speak up to save her people from extinction. Deborah had to speak up to lead an army to defeat the enemy of Israel. Mary had to speak up and accept the difficult yet honored role of the Mother of Jesus. Lydia had to speak up and invite Paul to teach her more about Jesus.
Where might you have to speak up for God’s purposes? What life situation might demand you say something for good?
From an unlikely source, US News and World Report magazine, I read this quote:
“Bathsheba is one of the most Beguiling Characters in the Bible…”11
One thing about Bathsheba is clear: It is she alone who sparks a sudden transition in David’s life…the implications…will dominate his remaining years.”
Bathsheba is a woman of influence. She became a favored wife of the King. She was Queen Mother to her son Solomon the King. She birthed 5 sons to David. Her name is in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:6).
Her life illustrates: it’s not what happens to us but how we respond. Do we become better or bitter? Do we allow God to work through our difficulties for His purposes?
Do we trust Him when we are sinned against? Do we speak up for Him?
1 Liz Curtis Higgs, Really Bad Girls of the Bible (New York: WaterBrook, 2016) 127.
2 Lindsay Hardin Freeman, Bible Women (Foreward Movement, 2014) 204.
3 Sarah E. Bowler, “ Vindicating the Vixens”(Kregel, p96)
4 Bob Deffinbaugh, “David and Bathsheba” www.bible.org
5 Dr. Thomas Constable, “Constable’s Notes,” NET Bible Study Suite, www.NetBible.org.
6 Adele Berlin, “Bathsheba: Bible”, jwa.org.
7 The Expositor’s Bible Commentary”, 938.
8 Constable’s Notes.
9 The Quest Study Bible p 444.
11 Jessica Feinstein, “U.S. News and World Report,” January 25, 2008.
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